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Title: From Aleshkovsky to Galkovsky : the praise of folly in Russian prose since the 1960s
Author: Ready, Oliver
ISNI:       0000 0000 4641 5368
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis illustrates and analyses the appeal of folly to writers of, principally, the late- Soviet era (1960s-1980s). This appeal expressed itself not only in numerous portrayals of evidently foolish characters, but also in the widespread use of first-person narrative in which various masks of folly are worn by narrators to assert their detachment from societal norms and from the scholarly and 'objective' discourse which Soviet culture sought to promote. These tendencies towards folly and subjectivity are examined in their various historical, religious and philosophical implications. Parallels are sought both in the Russian literarycultural heritage, which has accorded exceptional importance to various models of folly, and in West-European literary traditions, especially that established by Erasmus. It is argued that, while the Russian paradigm of holy foolery (yurodstvo) has undoubtedly retained its importance as a literary theme and code, loose analogies with yurodstvo may lead to misleading or simplistic interpretations. In the Introduction I outline further my aims and methodology, while also providing an account of the cultural and literary background to the topic, before and after 1917. In Chapter One I discuss fiction by Vladimir Voinovich, Vasily Shukshin and Venedikt Erofeev, in order to indicate aspects of the general shape of my topic in the given period: how the 'praise of folly' developed and gained in complexity at the end of the 1960s. The bulk of the thesis (Chapters Two to Five) is devoted to more detailed casestudies of the work of three significant, but critically neglected, writers: Yuz Aleshkovsky, Yury Mamleev and the philosopher, Dmitry Galkovsky. The varied 'fool narratives' of each of these writers manifests, in contrasting ways, a profound and paradoxical engagement with the mind, wisdom and learning. If Aleshkovskian folly develops in a sharply drawn historical context (Stalinism and its aftermath) and bears a markedly Christian flavour, Mamleev seeks to exclude Soviet and Christian thematics entirely, seeking deliverance from thought and reason. Dmitry Galkovsky, meanwhile, assesses the entire history of the Russian intelligentsia's love affair with folly from his own radically subjective and unreliable perspective in his 'philosophical novel' Beskonechnyi tupik. The Epilogue is devoted to Viktor Erofeev's highly cynical interpretation of Russia's 'praise of folly', before concluding with examples of the renewal of its traditions in post- Soviet prose.
Supervisor: Kelly, Catriona Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Criticism and interpretation ; Folly in literature ; Soviet fiction ; History and criticism